Aflatoxins are extremely potent carcinogens produced by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Cloning of genes in the aflatoxin pathway provides a specific approach to understanding the regulation of aflatoxin biosynthesis and, subsequently, to the control of aflatoxin contamination of food and feed. This paper reports the isolation of a gene involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis by complementation of an aflatoxin-nonproducing mutant with a wild-type genomic cosmid library of A. flavus. Strain 650-33, blocked in aflatoxin biosynthesis at the afl-2 allele, was complemented by a 32-kb cosmid clone (B9), resulting in the production of aflatoxin. The onset and profile of aflatoxin accumulation was similar for the transformed strain and the wild-type strain (NRRL 3357) of the fungus, indicating that the integrated gene is under the same control as in wild-type strains. Complementation analyses with DNA fragments from B9 indicated that the gene resides within a 2.2-kb fragment. Because this gene complements the mutated afl-2 allele, it was designated afl-2. Genetic evidence obtained from a double mutant showed that afl-2 is involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis before the formation of norsolorinic acid, the first stable intermediate identified in the pathway. Further, metabolite feeding studies with the mutant, transformed, and wild-type cultures and enzymatic activity measurements in cell extracts of these cultures suggest that afl-2 regulates gene expression or the activity of other aflatoxin pathway enzymes. This is the first reported isolation of a gene for aflatoxin biosynthesis in A. flavus
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